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Whale View Point project to start with climbing wall, sidewalk improvements

It may seem like it’s all-quiet on the Whale View Point Shoreline Enhancement Project front, but project organizer Ann Dynes has spent the last few months meeting with every person needed to make headway. The $2.1 million piecemeal project will improve the area bound by 274 Coast Blvd. at the south end, People’s Wall at the north, the intertidal zone to the west and Coast Boulevard to the east.

Dynes and her committee have met with applicable city departments and the ecological consulting firm Great Ecology to look at how to approach the 20-year project, a mass of minor projects aimed at improving and preserving the safety, aesthetic and educational opportunities of the area.

Starting with three easily implementable components of the project, Dynes sought, and received, support from the La Jolla Parks & Beaches committee at its Jan. 21 meeting. A project update was last provided to the board in October, when the board authorized funding minor vegetation removal. In a handover from the project’s authors, the La Jolla Conservancy, La Jolla Parks & Beaches voted in April to take the reins and implement the project.

The walking path under the climbing wall or ‘people’s wall’ would be stabilized and restored under the Whale View Point Shoreline Enhancement Project.
The walking path under the climbing wall or ‘people’s wall’ would be stabilized and restored under the Whale View Point Shoreline Enhancement Project.
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Two of the three projects presented focus on rehabilitating and stabilizing the climbing wall or “people’s wall” by commissioning a water flow study to evaluate how water is eroding the wall and surrounding paths, and filling in some of the makeshift paths to the beach. For the third component, the board heard a proposal to look at establishing a concrete sidewalk there that better connects to other paths.

“Last summer we had (Great Ecology) voluntarily give us some assistance in drawing specific plans for various elements of the Whale Views Point Project,” Dynes said. “We showed them the whole project and they chose a few sites to do some schematics. One was the climbing wall area.”

History of the site

Dynes explained that the cobblestone climbing wall was commissioned by Ellen Browning Scripps and built in 1910. “If you were to walk along the wall, you’ll see several drainage holes, so any rain or runoff wears away the bluff,” she said. “But more interestingly, there was a cobblestone retaining wall the whole length below the climbing wall, but the top (of the retaining wall) has been worn away by the runoff.”

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When the Whale View Point committee, Great Ecology and representatives from the Department of Park & Rec walked the area, they discovered the runoff and human foot traffic has undermined the integrity of the wall. “The dirt is coming away from the bottom of the wall and so one of the things we discussed with the city is the importance of preserving something at the site to prevent the wall from being (further) undermined,” Dynes said.

Drawing from a suggestion by then-interim Director of Park & Rec Andy Fields, Dynes said the committee is looking at having the city commission a water flow study to look at where the water is coming from and how to direct it to somewhere else to minimize erosion. The deeply eroded grooves off the main walkway have become makeshift paths to the beach due to frequent use, so Dynes said the committee would also like to explore filling in the grooves with decomposed granite and encouraging planned paths with plantings.

“Frankly, Great Ecology said, and I don’t disagree, that a number of the (existing paths) are actually unsafe,” she said. “The city would like our sense on whether they should pursue a restoration project at this site, even if a consequence might be to eliminate some public access.” Dynes noted there would still be several beach access paths.

“One of the things I have become very conscious of in working on the project is the interesting clash that we are starting to see between coastal access and coastal degradation, which is being created by so many people having access,” she said. “This would be an effort to improve erosion (control) at this site, but also establish a new footpath.”

Erosion and foot traffic have created makeshift paths and damaged the retaining wall under the climbing wall.
Erosion and foot traffic have created makeshift paths and damaged the retaining wall under the climbing wall.

Funding not a problem

Dynes said the city is “very supportive” of this proposal and that although it is unsure how it would be funded, the city is confident it could find funding. Joining in support, La Jolla Parks & Beaches voted unanimously to support the water flow study and approve the concept of reducing some coastal access to protect and rehabilitate the paths and wall.

Additional meetings with city departments in the months leading up to the January La Jolla Parks & Beaches meeting provided insight into how to enhance the sidewalk on the other side of the wall.

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“One of the things that has come out of this project is we have discovered that the entire stretch is a public right of way, not a park,” Dynes said. “It’s under the jurisdiction of the Streets Department and it’s their responsibility all the way to the mean high-tide line because there are no houses on the west side of the wall.

“The city has come to us and said it is prepared to help us out. Officials said they have funding for sidewalks. We could put in a nice sidewalk that would be runner-friendly and baby buggy-friendly. I would love see it meander through the park. The city just wants the green light to design a sidewalk.”

An additional option, Dynes said, is to apply for a grant from the California Coastal Conservancy to build a sidewalk as part of the CCC’s Coastal Trail program. The program, once completed, will establish coastal walking paths that connect Oregon to Mexico.

The Whale View Point project originally suggested decomposed granite for the sidewalk improvement, but given available city funding for a concrete sidewalk, the board voted to support upgrading the sidewalk according to city recommendations.

In a continuation of its re-vegetation efforts, such as what was presented in October, the board voted to support removing approximately 60 feet of salt brush on the bluff coastline immediately north of the Coast Boulevard project boundary. Although the specifics could change, Dynes presented a palate of approved California native coastal plants that could replace the salt brush. She said the city could recommend minor changes, but she would report that the palate presented was acceptable to La Jolla Parks & Beaches.

Parks & Beaches member Sally Fuller thanked the committee for the “dynamite presentation,” and Dynes for “doing a hell of a lot in a short amount of time.”